Redhage to go full tilt with Redbacks after retiring a Wildcats legend

HE has now retired an NBL and Perth Wildcats legend with four championships and six club MVP awards to his name, but Shawn Redhage has never been one to go into cruise mode and that's not how he's approaching the start to his SBL career with the Perth Redbacks.

The 36-year-old could certainly be excused for wanting to take some time off and reflect on his professional basketball career that came to an end on Sunday as the Wildcats secured their eighth NBL championship in 31 straight years of making the playoffs.

Redhage earned his fourth championship ring and started much to the delight of the 13,611 fans at Perth Arena in Sunday's Game 3 eventual victory for the Wildcats over the Illawarra Hawks.

He had already announced that he would be retiring at the end of the NBL season and finished his career with 393 matches in the league to go with the four titles.

With the Wildcats alone, he sits in second place on the all-time games played list with 380 games only behind Ricky Grace as he also joins Grace with the four rings and six club MVP awards.

Redhage's No. 42 will be raised to the rafters at Perth Arena in the near future as well that much is sure, but what he learned from his final NBL season is that he still had some gas left in his tank.

He settled into a role off the bench with relatively limited minutes compared to the rest of his career with the Wildcats. While he was happy to do what was asked, he has never felt fresher or healthier come the end of an NBL season.

That is good news for the Redbacks and the SBL as Redhage prepares to play in the league for the first time in 2017.

He will be there on Friday March 17 as the Redbacks head to Rockingham to take on the Flames.

He will miss the next night at home to the Goldfields Giants because of the Wildcats MVP Ball, but Redhage is going to be giving his all with the Redbacks.

"I've never been one to take much time off and nothing has changed. I'll be there for Round 1 with the Redbacks," Redhage said.

"I still love to play and the worst thing as a player, especially as you get older, is trying to get back into shape so I'm not going to take any time off and I'll just keep going all the way through.

"This is the freshest I've ever felt at the end of a season and even on Saturday I was getting a massage, and I had no sore spots to show to the masseuse. So I was ready for more minutes on Sunday and now I'm ready to go in the next phase of my career."

Speaking after winning the championship on Sunday, Redhage was still a little lost for words that his career received the fairytale finish.

"It's a surreal moment right now," he said.

"There is the excitement of winning a championship but in the back of the mind as well you know this is the last time you are going to take that court and play in front of the Red Army, and with these teammates.

"It has been an incredible journey and there is a wave of emotions, but I'm extremely proud of this team and how it's all ended."

One thing Redhage was yet to achieve until Sunday was back-to-back championships.

He captained the Wildcats' 2010 title but then injured his hip and pelvis in horrific circumstances the next year and missed the semi-final loss to the New Zealand Breakers.

He was then part of the grand final losses to the Breakers the next two years before being a key member of the 2014 championship team that again fell short 12 months later when he missed the semi-final series with the Cairns Taipans through injury.

After winning in 2016, this season was his last chance to be part of the 'Cats second back-to-back title victory and to pull it off means the world to him.

"It's incredible. You play to get the best out of yourself and there isn’t a guy who starts any season that doesn’t want to win a championship, but for us to actually do it and to go back-to-back this year is huge," Redhage said.

"As soon as you win a championship you've got that mark on you and being a Wildcat you have that all the time, so I'm extremely proud. The championships are what you will remember most and that's what I'm proud of the most when I look back on my career.

"After we won it last year, as a group we hadn’t gone back-to-back and we had that real drive to do it. The hardest one always seems to be the second one so credit to New Zealand for winning three straight, but this is the first time we've gone back-to-back.

"I'm extremely proud that we got this second one and I'm excited to see how this team goes next year to see if they can continue the streak."

Making this championship even more special for Redhage is the adversity the Wildcats had to overcome to achieve it.

There was the import drama with Jaron Johnson, Andre Ingram and then Johnson again before settling with superstar Bryce Cotton.

Injuries to Damian Martin, Jarrod Kenny and Matt Knight also made things tough and the Wildcats still had to wait until the last second of the final regular season game against Melbourne United to book in a playoff spot.

But Redhage and the team always had the belief that things could come good when it mattered most.

"There was always a belief and then the big win was when we beat Cairns in Game 1 on the road," he said.

"That was the big change for us and that was one of the best games we had played all season, and to win on the road in the playoffs I know that during my career that doesn’t happen too often.

"I knew at that point that it was definitely a great chance that we could end up here. We had to battle to get there in the first place and the playoffs started early for us, so to get the championship at the end of it after the pressure we were under in every game is huge."

Redhage also deserves tremendous respect with the way he accepted his role of limited minutes this season with the Wildcats.

For someone who became an all-time great having put up big numbers and playing big numbers his whole career, it would have been easy for him to take it as an insult.

Instead he dedicated himself to be the best teammate he could and not once did he regret his decision to play on. His reward is another championship and the fact that he retires from the NBL knowing the time is right.

"Last year I wasn't ready to give it up, but now I am. I think it probably just gives it a little bit more meaning as well to be able to end it with a championship," Redhage said.

"If we weren’t contending then it would have been tough to not play many minutes, but to play on a team that ends up winning the championship you have no complaints over your role and you just want to help however you can.

"I still love the game and you play the game because you have a love for it. I've had times earlier in my career and back in college when I wasn’t playing much, but I still loved the game and if I didn’t have that drive I wouldn’t have played this year.

"But I felt like no matter what the role was going to be that I was prepared to be ready when my time came to get on the court. I'm proud of the teammate that I was to this team and it's something that I will always be happy about doing.

"Everyone wants to have the ball in their hands, but in a team sport everyone has to play their role and when all the guys buy into that things like championships happen and it makes it all worth it."

Photo by Perth Wildcats


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